With no snow on the ground, graders don't have much snow to work with, but city leaders in Sioux Falls are banking on that changing.
“Today is a very nice day, but this is South Dakota. We will get a fair amount of snow and we will be able to turn these machines and operators loose and really harness another year's worth of data," Public Works Director Mark Cotter said.
This will be the third year Sioux Falls has tested snow gates, a contraption used to help prevent plows from pushing piles of snow into driveways.
The two previous tests have focused on two areas of town each year. This year's test will be the largest yet, covering six new areas of city streets.
"I need to make sure that the data that we've collected over the last two years can be compared with the data of this year. If we change it up now, then it's not going to be apples to apples." Street Department Manager Galynn Huber said.
To make this year's testing possible, the city purchased three new snow gates at $4,800 a piece. They're also testing two separate brands which will give them a better idea of which one performs better.
Last year's testing was limited because of the lack of snow, but the first year of testing showed that snow gates slow plows down and burn about 30 percent more fuel.
"We couldn't trap the snow in the board when we shut the gate. It would just come over the top or go underneath our blades and we couldn't capture it. So we had to slow down our motor graders so that when we do close the gate, it stays in there," Huber said.
With more testing this year, the goal is to make a recommendation in March. Depending on the decision, Sioux Falls could become the largest city to use snow gates on every corner of town.
A citizen group currently collecting petitions that would have city residents vote on adding snow gates to all plows says it has surpassed its goal. The group says they have 7,000 signatures but want to gather more before handing the petitions in. Less than 5,000 are required to put the issue on the ballot.
Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether says he has no doubt such a vote would pass in the city, but is asking residents to allow the testing to be conducted to ensure the snow gates perform properly, are safe are cost effective.